Friday post! No, I didn’t forget, I’m just slightly behind schedule because I was preoccupied making up a parody song about my English muffin for breakfast. Today! Herb drying! Back in the spring when my mom was here she got a couple potted herb plants. When I got home after tour I planted them in a little row by some marigolds (gross! I hate marigolds! But I hear they keep bugs away) and for a while I’d just pick a few basil leaves to put on pizza or chop up in a pasta dish. But there was a ton and we couldn’t use it that fast. Then I remembered, don’t herbs typically come in little jars, kind of dead-like? I could probably do that… And as it turns out, drying herbs is way easier than I first thought! Now that I’ve done it, I really don’t understand why anyone would ever buy already-dried herbs! It’s super easy, you get a ton, and they’re way stronger and better than the stuff you can buy pre-dried!
So, step one, get some herb plants. I dried my basil and oregano for this post, but now I’m also drying some lavender leaves & stems. (Originally I didn’t know lavender was good for anything. Then I looked it up. Oh my goodness, it does so much stuff!!)
Try to cut stems close to the base, but don’t cut the entire plant; leave pieces to grow bigger so you can harvest the herbs multiple times through the growing season. Also, it helps your hipster cred if you collect the herbs in a peach basket from a farmers’ market.
Next, put the herbs in a large bowl or plug up your sink and put them in there, and run cold water over them until they’re submerged. Keep them submerged for about 5 minutes, swishing them around with your hands once in a while to wash the herbs of dirt and bugs. I washed my two herb types separate because I had so much of each, but it really doesn’t matter if you wash them together. As long as you separate them for the drying.
Roll out a couple lines of paper towels. Pull out one stalk of herbs at a time, shake off excess water, and lay them onto the paper towels so that they’re not touching. Take more paper towel and pat the tops of the herbs dry. Or at least dry enough so they’re not soaking wet anymore.
Then, using twine (or whatever else kind of good string) bring the herbs into small bunches. You don’t want too much in a bunch together, since that will make it harder for the middle leaves to dry out evenly. Also, tie these bunches pretty tight, since as they dry they’ll shrink and you don’t want them to fall from the string. Oh, and don’t mix different kinds of herbs together in bunches, since the flavors could mix and get weird.
Now, hang to dry! Make sure they’re in a “cool dry place” (though in this hot humid weather that’s not the easiest thing to find, so just do your best) that’s really out of the way. I had some empty closet space in our guest room, so I hung mine from the hanger rod. Aren’t they so pretty?!
Now you just leave them alone for a while. Basil could take 2-4 weeks to dry, while oregano could take 1-2 weeks, because of the size of the leaves. Basically I just checked them every once in a while until they both seemed pretty “dried herb looking” and I cut them all down at the same time.
Now, here’s the trick to keeping the herbs super flavorful: Do not quickly strip the leaves from the stems. Instead, carefully pull the pieces of the dried plant apart and try to cut off each leaf one by one, leaving them as whole as possible. It’s a lot of work, but this is what makes drying your own herbs worth it. The actual crunching of the leaves releases the flavor, and it’s way stronger than the store-bought stuff. I put my whole leaves into clean empty mason jars., though you could probably keep them in ziplock bags or tupperware if you want.